By Ivan G. Goldman
How much would you be willing to pay to watch Amir Khan fight Floyd Mayweather on TV?
According to reports from British media such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, that’s something fans will have to decide by May 3, the date of this tentative face-off. Rumors of the match have floated around for many weeks. Originally we were told it would be fought in the United Kingdom, but apparently the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has been reserved for Floyd plus somebody, though there doesn’t seem to be any signed fight.
Not so long ago a bout like this would have been considered a tune-up and a premium network – either Showtime or HBO – would provide it to its subscribers for no extra charge. Khan, who will be 27 next month, is 28-3 (19 KOs). He was kayoed by Bredis Prescott in the first round, by Danny Garcia in the fourth, and lost a split decision to Lamont Peterson. In his last outing he went down in the fourth round on his way to a decision over warhorse Julio Diaz.
Although Khan is a world-class fighter and Olympic Silver Medalist (2004), he has too many blemishes on his resume to be considered optimum competition for Number One pound-for-pound Mayweather.
There’s nothing wrong with Mayweather fighting a guy like Khan, but there is something wrong with making it a pay-per-view event or claiming that Khan is a live underdog. He’s more like a limping underdog. London bookies have already tabbed Floyd as a 9-1 favorite, and those odds could get steeper, depending on how bettors see it. But this fight, if it does come off, will almost certainly be PPV. Floyd’s last one, against Canelo Alvarez, cost home viewers $75 for the high-def version. Khan-Mayweather is a boxing version of Cactus League baseball or an NFL pre-season exhibition, but you definitely don’t see such games make it to pay TV.
Mayweather, who will turn 37 in February, is 45-0 (26 KOs). Thanks to his cautious yet masterful style, he’s scored only two stoppages in his last ten outings. We know he has some kind of enormously lucrative contract with Showtime, though details have never been revealed. We also know that Floyd’s “Money” Team and Showtime think only in terms of PPV for his fights. It would be lovely if they’d surprise us with a change in this mercantile strategy, but don’t bet on it.
Khan had been penciled in to fight Devon Alexander in December, but he slipped out of the tentative deal, apparently hoping for a bonanza bout against Floyd. It’s not terribly easy to nail down Floyd’s signature. His team fights for every nickel. Assuming this fight does come off, there remain two big question marks. One, who’s on the undercard? You don’t put on a big Cinco de Mayo card in Las Vegas without a big-name Mexican or at least a Mexican-American in the line-up, preferably in the main event. But this main event would feature an American versus a Brit.
Two, how will HBO and Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions react? They may see it as an opportunity to go head to head against their arch enemies Showtime and Golden Boy — assuming Floyd signs with Golden Boy to handle all the promotional details. That’s been his method of operation for several fights.
HBO and Arum could team up with another promoter such as Dan Goossen, Lou DiBella, or Kathy Duva and try to stick it to Golden Boy/Showtime with an event of their own, possibly even in Las Vegas, featuring a big Mexican name in the main event. Also, if Manny Pacquiao is impressive against Brandon Rios in their Nov. 23 show from Macau, China, he could conceivably headline another card on May 3. We shall see. He will be 35 in February.
British fans have in the past traveled to Las Vegas to watch one of their own – namely, Ricky Hatton – compete there. Would they do it for Khan? Certainly some of them would. They have plenty of knowledgeable fans who understand he’s a big underdog in this match, but they also enjoy Las Vegas. Khan has a history of blaming his ring misfortunes on his trainers, but he shows heart in there and has weathered some rough storms and provided plenty of exciting moments during his career.
Mayweather, who looked like he might be slipping a bit when he took on formidable Miguel Cotto last year, was impressive against Canelo, a big puncher who never really got into the fight. Clearly Cotto had good moments because he’s an excellent fighter, not because of any deficiencies in Mayweather.
A bout against Khan would be planned as an exhibition of the champion’s skills, an opportunity for fans to see him in action before his looming retirement. But will HBO and Arum lie down and let him get away with it on Cinco de Mayo? Will fans pay for it?
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Available online & at better bookstores everywhere. Information HERE